Today’s book review is for all three books in the Weird! series: Weird!, Dare!, and Tough!, written by Erin Frankel, illustrated by Paula Heaphy, published by Free Spirit Publishing. I received electronic copies of these books from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I am also pleased to announce that I was invited to participate in the blog tour for this series, which was scheduled to coincide with Bullying Prevention Month. So, keep reading after the review for a special guest post from author Erin Frankel!
The Weird! series tells the story of bullying from three different perspectives: Luisa, the victim, narrates Weird!, Jayla, the bystander, in Dare!, and Sam, the bully, in Tough!. Each of the third grade girls struggles to understand her identity and how to express it. However, when they find a supportive and encouraging adult to help them, each girl is able to overcome her problems and grow into a better person.
Bullying has long been a problem in schools, which means it has also inspired a multitude of books on the subject. In that sea of literature, Frankel’s voice is a breath of fresh air. She is able to get inside the heads of each girl and narrates in voices that feel fresh, honest, and real. At the same time, she doesn’t sacrifice literary style–the language is thoughtful and has a natural, easy flow. I was also impressed that each of her main characters are cool and likable in their own way–there are no pathetic outcast whiners or giant ignorant oafs in these books, just three girls with vibrant personalities. And it was great to see that the girls were guided through their issues by competent adults. Too many books leave children to figure out problems on their own, but Frankel recognizes that bullying can be complicated, and sometimes kids need help solving big problems.
To make things even better, the series has gorgeous illustration. There’s no bland, generic stock illustration here. Instead, Heaphy’s pictures are graphic and hip. She has an excellent eye for design. She uses repeating patterns and motifs throughout each book to create a sense of mood and identity. I also loved the way that she applies color sparingly–being unafraid to leave most of the page in black and white. Her images bring the books to life and provide a sense of unity between the three stories.
At the end of each book there are a series of discussion points and activities to use with children in the classroom, or at home. They provide great opportunities for extension projects and are a great resource for busy teachers. For me, these final touches also reveal just how much thought went into crafting these books. While they are engaging stories on their own, they are also great teaching tools. For everything from design to thoughtful story telling, these books earn 5 out of 5 stars.
You can find more information about these books, including other reviews, at Goodreads.
Helping Kids Stop Bullying
Tips for Using the Weird Series in the Classroom
By Erin Frankel
When I wrote the Weird series, I knew it was important to bring the role of the caring adult into the spotlight. It is a role too often left out of picture books on bullying in which child characters are left to find solutions on their own. The reality is that most children will need help when it comes to putting an end to bullying, and they will turn to the adults in their lives to help guide and support them.
Each of the three books in the Weird series, Weird!, Dare!, and Tough!, shows main characters as well as peripheral characters interacting with adults who support and help them in finding solutions to bullying. Placing adults in the books was a leap of faith. I had to believe that if a child reading these books had the courage to reach out to adults about bullying, those adults would respond with compassion and commitment.
When it comes to bullying, teachers, parents, and other caregivers need to be willing and prepared to help. It is my hope that the additional discussion questions, activities, and suggestions outlined in our free leader’s guide (available online here) will help foster a caring community of learners in your classroom, school, and community.
The three books in the Weird series can be read in any order. You may choose to start with Weird!, told from the target’s perspective; Dare!, told from the bystander’s perspective; or Tough!, told from the perspective of the child initiating the bullying. Each book is packed with opportunities for discussion and reflection. I like to begin with Weird!, told from the target’s perspective, because it sets the stage for a powerful question: How did Luisa get back to being herself? No matter which book you choose to start with, I suggest taking your time with each, rather than trying to race through all three books in one reading. There are many ways to integrate the Weird series into your classroom schedule and curriculum. Some ideas include using the series:
- at the beginning of the school year when working with students to define what will make your classroom a caring community.
- as a lead-in to National Bullying Prevention Month, No Name-Calling Week, or other national or local anti-bullying initiatives.
- during character education units on courage, compassion, empathy, kindness, truthfulness, fairness, confidence, self-respect, or tolerance (just to mention a few).
- when specific instances of bullying have occurred in your classroom or school. Note: Take care not to name participants or single out students.
- as a reminder throughout the year to choose kindness.
However you use the books, consider revisiting the characters and their challenges throughout the school year to discuss the choices they made. If students have forgotten details, it is often nice to go back and read the books again.
For further ideas about how to use the Weird series in your classroom or community, follow us online at www.theweirdseries.com.
Erin Frankel is the author of Weird!, Dare!, and Tough!, an acclaimed picture book series on bullying from Free Spirit Publishing.
Adapted from A Leader’s Guide to the Weird Series by Erin Frankel, illustrated by Paula Heaphy, copyright © 2013. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.
Many thanks to the author and publisher for allowing me to participate in this blog tour. Also, apologies for the late post–technical difficulties and an injury conspired against me, but I persevered.